Simplicity & Routines

A Vision Splendid has several posts that describe a simple country woman. A woman who, these days could earn money telling us all that they know, because some of us either don't know their skills, or need their memories refreshed. I know lots of Australian women have retained the knowledge they built up from maybe being a newly married woman in the early 80s but sadly I find if I don't keep going with those things I forget them. I am so thankful that these women are still around and that I can be blessed by them even very occasionally.

One such occasion was once when a local primary school in our practise seachange year was catering for a horse riding event, riding horses around for the day in the country. It went very well. The school kids were given some of the left over cake. Oh, the joy of having a real piece of dateloaf! Or was it nutloaf, that is the problem. I have collected all these recipes of course, have the right bakeware; I love vintage bakeware. But I find unless I have written very good notes of that time, some of the things mean nothing, or very little. It is the things you think that you will never forget that you should write down. Because, if you do happen to forget you are in trouble. Though, I think with practise and going over the things again, then writing the notes I will be fine. I did this recently.

At that time, I was reminded of what it was like to make fruitcakes. I used to make the odd Christmas cake. There is no greater joy that mixing a proper, not boiled, fruitcake by hand. You know, mixing it with your hand literally. Maybe I am just a brandy freak? I read somewhere not that long ago that modern people don't buy brandy as much as other spirits & things. I can't imagine anyone not liking brandy. I suppose that is why occasionally I would watch a TV show like Two Fat Ladies, just for the reminder of that type of cooking.

Recently I was at Belinda's blog and saw a recipe for 5 cup cake. 5 cup cake was printed in the Family Circle magazine at one time. My Mum always bought the Women's Weekly when I was little, so did my Grandma. My Nana always bought the New Idea. Until the Family Circle disappeared a couple of years ago, then reappeared recently, I bought it every month. Not sure how long back I had been doing that. I did add lots of recipes from Family Circle since moving here to my marbig recipe collection.

I think collecting recipes from magazines was very popular in the early 80s, I know I did it. That was how I supplemented what I had learnt at school or from others about cooking etc. I bought some recipe books as well, especially Australian Women's Weekly ones.

I mentioned the 5 cup cake online, and another lady of the type I mentioned above said straight away she had been making it for years, like Belinda, and added her experience with the cakes. It is like the older date loaf I suppose. How precious magazines like the Family Circle have been to those of us of a certain age. So I make it like Sue's now, with sultanas. We have made it a few times now and the batter is ready before our oven heats up! How lovely to have been taught online some good Australian cooking and managing things. Even our kids get in on the act of baking the cake.

I must have missed this years ago, and I made one with currants, left over tea from a pot, eggs, brown sugar and flour, called Irish Speckled Cake. I have since found one I like better I think. Perhaps I was 5 cup cake, because it is lovely spread with butter too.

The Vision Splendid's country woman days were "baking, cooking meals, washing, cleaning, gardening, ironing, farming, knitting, sewing".

I remember when I was first married I loved to collect knitting books, mostly new ones. I do have the Odhams Knitting Encyclopedia (1968). I was learning to knit and it was a book from the 60s. My step-Mum taught me to cast on. After awhile my husband's Grandma gave us some old patterns. My MIL told me that when she sewed for her family she used the Enid Gilchrist patterns. I remember buying lots of TopKids magazines, as my Mum sewed, she did make a few things, but really if I wanted handsewn things I would have to do it myself. I inherited her old machine, but that proved difficult for me to use. However, I can't part with it just yet.

These days you can't even give a good machine to an op-shop as they can't take them. Our op-shop has been giving some away but they can't charge for them. I do know one that sells excellent second hand machines, and if I do have anything electrical to give away that someone could use, I would drive the one hour to take it there. I did come across a corner shop in a very tiny village near here when we first came that also sold collectibles and furniture that had machines, what a lovely shop. Collectibles & milk.

Cooking meals before the 80s and the Women's Weekly cookbooks involved mostly the meat and three vege. My Nana had her chest freezer, and later I did as well. Her speciality in the freezer was frozen pumpkin mashed and in a freezer bag. Nana did not like things to be overly hard to do, so she would pop her pumpkin in the saucepan and reheat it. Like me, peeling potatoes is no great hardship, but peeling pumpkin in a rush; sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Indeed, my Mum often had knife mishaps. I love my vegetable knife in the shape of those times. Brown short blade. It is not sharp at the moment. It is because in this modern age, if you share a kitchen, sometimes things are not exactly the way you would want them. In the 80s we always had sharp knives, then again my hubby didn't work quite as hard then. These days if you get paid well you have to work very hard to maintain your senior status.

Our chest freezer in the 80s had lots of beans in it. My Mum always grew Purple King, Nana liked yellow beans. We always had our beans on star posts as hubby calls them, the ones you use for fencing, the metal ones. Not sure if he welded two together. I think we still have a couple left.

When I had my first baby in 1988, routines were impressed upon me. I also I think had some left over from example. So in the mornings I did the washing straight away except on the days we went grocery shopping once a fortnight. Same time each time, straight after the banking. I had a twin tub just like my Mum did when I was little. We had high door knobs in the house, and the kids were safe with the TV for the time it took to do this washing. Though by that stage my Mum I think thought I needed a automatic. I had two others in school. The twin tub was better in some ways, because you did the day's washing all at once until the next day. I always had the nappies to do every morning, for years until my fourth child was 3 in 2000. I also did them again in 2001-02 when my last was born. I quite like a laundry with a view. Mine had a view of a crazy filbert, a blueberry bush, a wintersweet tree and a grapefruit and the happenings of our backyard. The second one a great 70s room and quiet.

Knitting I realised is such a peaceful thing, and I am sure smoothed over lots of stress when I was doing it. I see Still At Home's blog and see her squares and notice that is far from my current experience these days. Not sure why that is, have been trying to work it out. I know someone IRL said to me they didn't do those things after awhile and she had six children. Anyway, that is the routine that the country women sometimes had. The ladies that I know that either milked or helped in the fields, had very capable teenaged daughters. But, that, like mine, is a different stage in their lives. Though I think there were others that carried on the same routine even perhaps all the way to the present.

I did read a funny skit in a local flier that went around once though. It seemed in imply that some women these days might suggest something violent if asked to do those things. I wonder how true it is. I remember a similar thing when we bought our last dishwasher by the salesman.

The routine went, at our place in the 80s, get up have shower, breakfast etc. do washing. Give baby farex or whatever, put them down for nap, or after shopping. Have lunch, watch an hour of Days of Our Lives, for the rest, pick in washing about 3pm, maybe collect kids from school. Snacktime or rest, then the tea and bath thing, TV, kids bedtime. Hubby's schoolwork then bed ourselves.

That is a composite of different things in the early days. The times it went wrong was when for example I moved and had to take my then three year old daughter to the clothes line with me, and she kept putting the dog food in the dog water. In the old days nothing interfered with the washing etc. I believe old fashioned housewives went to great lengths to enable their routines to keep flowing nicely, I suppose the obvious is not to move. In these modern times, sometimes the fencing or whatever is not done in time and well things aren't perfect. At the moment I have problems with hot water, I hang over from my early washing experiences is that I prefer to wash in warm water.

My Mum's friend is in her 70s now. I have not been in contact with these great homemaker's in their older years. In some ways my role models are not so much in front of me anymore. I know last time we visited my MIL she and FIL made a steamed pudding. I was very impressed with that. Again, I have the steamed pudding basin in the cupboard. We did hear about my daughter's friend. She had gone to stay as she does sometimes, and her friend's Grandma made Golden Syrup dumplings. We had a go at them using recipe stored away. Everytime you do something like that you realise so much what you are missing out on, not following the old ways. I love English food. I don't know if this English or Australian food in in the genes, or it is just memories of childhood. Because we are very multicultural in our food choices here. But when we eat something oldfashioned it is like Ahhh.

Here is an example of our then well used Lemon Cordial recipe. The things that I thought I would always remember was the method, not so. However I do remember some of it to pass on.

Our Lemon Cordial

1 pint lemon juice (often we froze it into old sandwich style containers, retro ones)
3lbs white sugar
1 1/2 pints water
1/4oz citric acid

Dissolve sugar in heating water. We used a stock pot, our was aluminium, I am getting away from those, and I stirred it constantly with a wooden spoon as it was heating up. We used a potato peeler to peel some lemon rind that lay in the water while it was heating up. Maybe we strained it, or just scooped them out.

Add juice (and acid?). We saved the commerical lemon cordial bottles because they had lemons imprinted on them. To see if they are still available look near the Ribena in the supermarket.

It was bottled in clean bottles, possibly sterilized in the oven. It would last as long as we needed it to in our preserves cupboard. Maybe the lids were boiled. As I say, write everything down! Will have to try this again to jog my memory.

I have written in pencil ~ 6 bottles. And also 4pt.

Irish Speckled Cake

1 375g packet currants
1 cup cold tea
1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 cups SR Flour
1 egg

Put currants, tea and brown sugar into a bowl. Cover and soak overnight. Next day add SR flour, and unbeaten egg. Mix well with a wooden spoon then place into a well greased loaf tin. Bake in a moderate oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Test with skewer. Turn out and cool. When cold slice and serve with butter. This is a very moist cake and it keeps well for at least a week. This recipe is probably before fan forced ovens.


Cathy said…
Hello Linda
Great post - only I'll have ot come back and read again to take it all in.

Love the bit about thinking you'll remember it all so write it down. thats my undoing - I think I'll remeber it all and guess what -yes I don't lol

Take care
Still at Home said…
Hi Linda,
Interesting post. Reminds me, I recently made a nice loaf using warm tea, sugar, currants, SR flour, mixed spice and lemon zest. I meant to write the recipe in my "useful recipes" book - I'll do it now. Thanks.
Also do you touch type? - the little bit of text I type takes me quite a while to get down.
Have a nice Thursday, Ann.
Linda said…
Hi Ann. Thanks, you too.

Sounds like a great recipe.

I learnt to touch type at school and used it at work for a couple of years. I think I am over 20wpm faster since going on forums/blogging etc. Even so, it does take awhile to write something like that.
Hill upon hill said…
I have that recipe too (5 cup cake)

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